SANDPOINT — A Bonner County jury convicted a Sandpoint woman Tuesday of leaving the scene of a deadly crash on Highway 200 last year.
The jury of nine women and three men deliberated for less than two hours before unanimously finding Brianna Lucille Knapp guilty of the felony offense. Knapp closed her eyes and stifled back tears as the verdict was announced.
Knapp faces up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine when she is sentenced in 1st District Court on Feb. 18. Knapp remains free on her own recognizance while the case is pending.
The charge arose from back-to-back nighttime crashes in a construction zone east of Clark Fork on July 24, 2012. The westbound lane of the highway was a few inches higher than the eastbound one as a result of the resurfacing project.
Idaho State Police said Kurt Henson was riding westbound when he veered into the lower eastbound lane and attempted to regain the westbound lane, but lost control of his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
Henson and his passenger came off the bike when it went onto its side. At least two witnesses stopped at the scene to see if help was needed.
Knapp, meanwhile, was also westbound in a Dodge pickup truck and closing in on the scene of the crash. Witnesses on Monday testified that the truck drove over the toppled motorcycle and the fallen Henson without decelerating or swerving.
The Dodge became disabled and Knapp abandoned the truck. She initially told investigators that she hitchhiked to her former home in Clark Fork, but revised her earlier account and stated that she walked a short distance to a picnic table within view of the procession of law enforcement and emergency vehicles that came and went from the scene.
Henson, a 47-year-old Post Falls resident and off-duty Spokane Police officer, died at the scene. His passenger, Kimberly Lenox, survived. Knapp, 27, was arrested the day after the crashes.
Knapp was not charged with causing or contributing to Henson’s death, although much of Tuesday’s testimony focused on dueling crash reconstruction experts’ interpretation of the events leading to his death.
The defense’s expert, William Skelton, testified that Knapp likely never even saw the downed Harley because the bottom of it was pointing in her direction when she encountered it.
Skelton also attributed a forward bend in the right handlebar to Henson’s body hitting it and said there was no evidence that she drove over Henson.
A tearful Knapp testified that she did not believe she collided with anything more than an imperfection in the road surface
“I figured it was a rough lane edge,” Knapp told the jury, adding that she was unaware of injuries or a loss of life until she was confronted by sheriff’s investigators.
State police crash reconstruction expert Allen Ashby disputed Skelton’s findings and said the handlebar bent forward because the bike rotated and slid backward down the highway. Moreover, paint from the Harley was transferred to the Dodge’s undercarriage, indicating that Knapp’s rig did indeed hit the bike.
The crash expert testimony was essential to the state’s case because an element of the charge required a finding that Henson was injured in the collision with Knapp’s vehicle.
During closing arguments, Bonner County Public Defender Dan Taylor downplayed the offense as a “glorified misdemeanor” and said nobody could definitively say how Henson got hit. Taylor also emphasized Knapp’s testimony that she was unaware of hitting anything or anybody.
“Did she know or didn’t she know she was involved (in a collision)? All of evidence suggests that she didn’t know,” Taylor told the jury.
Deputy Prosecutor Roger Hanlon told the jury that Knapp had a duty to Henson — not law enforcement — to remain at the scene and said her decision to stay out of sight following the crash was telling.
“Why would a person sit there all night long and watch all that activity?” Hanlon asked. “The answer is because she knew that this incident was much more serious than she has acknowledged.”